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GUNS Magazine March 2012 Digital Edition - Page 48

Massad Ayoob Photos: Joseph R. Novelozo esigned—and proven in the arena—by a great world champion, the latest iteration of this popular polymer pistol has captured the attention of competition shooters. d Last spring, I got to sit down with Dave Williams and Chad Dyer at the Springfield Armory facility in Geneseo, Ill. The topic of discussion was the 5.25 variation of the XD(M) pistol, which was about to be announced. This new model is the brainchild of Rob Leatham, who is the face of Springfield Armory in the action-shooting world. Rob has won more world and national championships, in disciplines such as IPSC, NRA Action Pistol and the Steel Challenge format, than just about anyone else. He shot his way to fame with the 1911, which from the mid-1980s until recently, was Springfield Armory’s most popular pistol. However, in recent years the polymer-framed XD series has become the company’s best-selling handgun. Built in Croatia and described by its manufacturer as a single-action, striker-fired design, the XD was joined a few years ago by the XD(M), which is essentially an update of the XD format for which Williams, the head of the Springfield Custom shop, is generally credited. The slide is re-shaped, with grasping grooves that give many hands more traction. The frame of the XD(M) has interchangeable backstraps, to better fit the pistol to a wide variety of hand sizes. At XD Armorer School, they tell you emphatically that the XD(M) is sufficiently different internally as to require a separate course. One XD(M) feature is it does not require a pull of the trigger to begin takedown. Some in the firearms world see this as a safety feature. Dave Williams sees it as simply a convenience to the owner. In any case, this is generally perceived as A Good Thing. The 5.25 Factor The new gun’s sobriquet, 5.25, comes from its barrel length of 5-1/4". This variation is credited by Dave and Chad entirely to Rob Leatham. The original XD(M), which has become so popular in the last few years, has a 4-1/2" barrel, and for most that’s just fine. However, world champion shooters like Leatham aren’t satisfied with what’s fine for “most.” They strive for perfection. It’s a given in the handgun marksmanship world that a longer sight radius decreases human error in aiming, translating to better hits. Leatham wanted a longer barrel and slide to extend the dimension between the front and rear sights. Explains Dave Williams, “It’s a little more competitive, the longest barrel legally allowed in most competition in action shooting.” In most handguns, a longer barrel of similar configuration to a shorter one naturally makes the gun more muzzle-heavy. It’s true on revolvers, it’s true on longslide 1911s, and it’s true on XDs. While preparing this article, I took a pair of XD .45s out of my safe to dry-fire. The service model with 4" barrel was distinctly less muzzle heavy than the 5" Tactical model. Leatham, of course, had picked up on this long before I had. In a game like PPC, where you’re shooting at a single target and a good portion of the firing is done from the 50-yard line, a heavy barrel is seen as helpful in holding the sights on the mark. However, PPC is not action shooting. When you’re sweeping your gun across an array of reaction targets at the Steel Challenge, or down a table of 8" steel plates at the Bianchi Cup, you want a pistol somewhat lighter and more “lively” at the front end. Leatham’s solution was a cutaway in the top of the slide around the barrel, to lighten the longer slide and keep weight down, while allowing extended sight radius. It’s analogous to what Glock did with their longer barrel models, the Tactical/Practical Glock 34 (9mm) and 35 (.40 S&W) with 5.3" barrels, and their long-slide G17L 9mm and G24 .40 with 6" barrels. Petite Gail Pepin (above) has the muzzle of the 5.25 back on the next steel plate while the spent casing from her last shot rockets past her head. “I want one!” she said after the test shoot. Scene is Springfield Armory test range in Geneseo, Ill. Also at the Springfield Armory test range (below), Mas experiences the easy shooting qualities of the 5.25 in 9mm. Photos: Massad Ayoob Long SLid SPrINgFIeld ArMory Xd(M) 5.25 48 W W W. G U N S M A G A Z I N E . C O M • M A R C H 2 0 1 2

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